The transition to motherhood comes with many adjustments. Learning what is normal and not normal is key to understanding your body and all the changes after your baby is born. As your milk comes in for the first time, the sensation can be a feeling of fullness, tingling, or for some women uncomfortable. As your body adjusts and learns what your baby’s needs are it will start to become more comfortable.
As you first start breastfeeding, you will need to master the right technique to prevent your baby from latching to the nipple instead of the breast. This can cause pain, cracked nipples, and sometimes bleeding. If you are struggling to establish a good latch, request a lactation consultant at the hospital or one to come to your home to work with you. In order for your baby to get adequate nutrition they need to have a good latch on the breast to remove milk. Using pure lanolin on your nipples can be very helpful to ensure healing of your nipples and prevention of infections if you have painful or cracked nipples during this process.
Pain in your breasts during breastfeeding can also be caused by engorgement (fullness) or blocked ducts. You may also notice tenderness and warmth to touch or lumps in your breasts. This can be a sign that you have blocked ducts. Blocked ducts can occur when you miss a feeding, the baby doesn’t remove milk well during a feeding, or if there is compression on the breast. Compression on your breast can occur with poor bra fitting, sleeping on your chest, or pressure from other materials like a purse strap or baby carrier.
Mastitis can also cause pain in your breasts. It is also accompanied by a flu-like sensation, which includes fever, chills, malaise, and sometimes body aches. Mastitis is an infection which needs to be treated by your medical professional.
What can you do to prevent blocked milk ducts and mastitis?
Create a frequent feeding schedule, especially in the early weeks after your baby is born
Establish a good latch for breastfeeding; seek out a lactation consultant if you need help
Empty your breasts during a feeding
Wear a proper fitting nursing bra, without underwire
Take care of yourself so you can minimize stress and illness
If I have blocked ducts, what can I do?
Make sure to fully empty your breasts during feedings
Get enough rest
Apply heat to your breasts
Massage the area of blockage